What water saving strategy is best in time of drought?

That's a question that researchers at Colorado State University in Fort Collins hope to answer with a new research project funded by a $883,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

The project will take a systematic approach to gain a better understanding into how to manage the scarce resource, according to a news release.

“We want to maximize crop per drop, meaning crop yield per gallon of water," Neil Hansen, an associate professor in the soil and crop sciences department and project lead, said in the release. "Water is short, and we’ve got to get as much as we can from the little we’ve got.”

The project will look at water-saving benefits of:

• Crop management, including use of cover cropping and drought-tolerant crop varieties;

• Soil management, including conservation tillage and soil amendments;

• Irrigation management, including scheduling and variable-rate irrigation; and

• Water management using sensors to track soil moisture and crop stress.

The researchers also will apply the knowledge gained to modify an online tool that helps farmers understand how management practices can improve water use.

In addition, they'll share the results with growers through field days, hand-outs and online.